My mom, Diana R. (in photo with me), never learned to cook while growing up. Her mother wasn’t much into cooking, so she didn’t pass on a love for it to her daughters. But through many experiments and flops and much hard work, my mom has become a fantastic cook!

After getting married, she and my dad, Tom, moved to France as missionaries. During the 12 years they lived and worked there—and raised a family—my mother developed a real appreciation for good food.

She learned to prepare so many mouth-watering dishes from scratch that it was difficult choosing one meal I consider her best. But Turkey with Mushrooms and Cream has to be one of her best authentic French dishes. The original recipe, Dinde a la Crème et Champignons, uses white wine instead of apple juice, but either way, this dish is scrumptious. Mom often serves it for Easter, Christmas and other celebrations.

As an accompaniment, Hazelnut Vegetable Salad can’t be beat. There’s plenty of crunch plus an appealing vinaigrette. No one passes up Mom’s golden brown Yummy Yeast Rolls, served warm with butter. And layered Poppy Seed Torte is an impressive finale for any occasion.

French twist meal

Five-Course Meals

While living in France, our family entertained almost weekly. Often on Sunday afternoons, we would have friends over for a five-course meal that lasted several hours. In true French style, Mom would serve an appetizer, salad, main dish, cheese and dessert…each as a separate course. Each course was accompanied by crusty baguettes from the bakery.

For birthday meals, she’d serve a dish called raclette. It’s a special melted cheese poured over potatoes, served with pickled baby onions and tiny dill pickles.

Mom’s style hasn’t changed much since we moved back to the United States in 2000. She still cooks and bakes from scratch for our family, which now numbers 10. I’m 18 and the oldest of eight children; the youngest is 2. We are home-schooled by Mom and Dad, who’s the pastor of a local church.

Shopping Trips

Every other week, Mom goes to the grocery store, which is 45 minutes away. We grind our own flour, so she buys 50 to 100 pounds of wheat berries at a time. She also buys 25 pounds of pasta and popcorn. (We love popcorn…in France, you sprinkle sugar on it.) We plant a huge garden in the summer with about 60 tomato plants.

My three sisters and I have always helped Mom in the kitchen, so we have a lot of cooking experience. Sometimes we’ll make lunch or dinner by ourselves to give her a break. My brothers dry the dishes, take out the garbage and lick the spoons! They leave the cooking to us.

I am about to start college in South Carolina, and one of the first things I plan to do is join the university’s kitchen club so I can continue making my mom’s fantastic recipes.

I’m sure you’ll enjoy them, too. Bon appetit!